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THE REBUILDING OF JERUSALEM.
whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions?" Daniel answered, "My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me." Then was the king exceedingly glad, and commanded that Daniel should be taken up out of the den, and that the men who had accused Daniel should be cast into the den. And they were cast into the den, and before they reached the ground they were torn in pieces by the lions.
Then king Darius made this decree: "In every dominion of my kingdom men shall tremble and fear before the God of Daniel; for he is the living God, and stedfast for ever, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end. He delivereth and rescueth, and he worketh signs and wonders in heaven and in earth, who hath delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.” a
57. THE REBUILDING OF JERUSALEM.
SEVENTY years after the destruction of Jerusalem, Cyrus, a Persian prince, became king over Assyria, Media, and Babylon. In the very first year of his reign he made a proclamation to all the Israelites who dwelt in his kingdom, that they might return to their own country, and rebuild their city and temple. "The Lord God of heaven," says the decree, "hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem. Who is there among you of all his people? his God be with him, and
a Dan, vi, 10-28.
let him go up to Jerusalem, and build the house of the Lord God of Israel." a He also gave back to the Israelites five thousand four hundred golden vessels and utensils which had been brought out of the temple to Babylon.
Every one that had not forgotten Jerusalem, now set out to return home. But the greater part of the Jews and Israelites had settled themselves in Assyria and Babylon, and many of them had become rich. And the whole number that returned to the ruins of Jerusalem under the guidance of the high-priest Jeshua, and Zerubbabel, one of the descendants of David, were forty-two thousand heads of families.
Their first business was to build again the altar of God, and to lay the foundation for the Lord's house. The priests stood with trumpets to praise the Lord; and all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the new house of the Lord was laid. But many of the old men, who had seen the former house, wept aloud when they saw the small beginning of the new one; so that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy of the young men, from the noise of the weeping of the old men.
In the many difficulties which they had to contend with in the work, the prophets Haggai and Zechariah greatly assisted by their advice and encouragement. The Samaritans wished to join with them in building, but the Jews refused their assistance. Then they tried in every possible way to obstruct the building, and made false charges
a Ezra i. 1-3.
THE REBUILDING OF JERUSALEM.
against them to the king, and even attacked them by force; so that during the building half the men were obliged to stand with their arms in their hands, and even the men who worked at the building carried their swords by their sides while
they held their tools in their hands. This happened under Darius and Artaxerxes, the successors of Cyrus. Darius sent Ezra the scribe to Jerusalem, and he took with him from Babylon all that remained of the vessels of the temple, and there he established the worship of God, the priesthood, and the civil regulations which had existed among their forefathers. After this, Artaxerxes sent Nehemiah, who was his cup-bearer and minister, to Jerusalem, at his own request, to build again its ruined walls; for although they had rebuilt the temple and many of the houses, the city was not yet protected by walls.
Most of the Persian monarchs were well dis
posed towards the Jews. The proudest of them all, the haughty Xerxes, took a Jewish maiden, Esther, for his wife, and by her means great benefits were conferred upon the Jews in the Persian empire. When Mordecai, her uncle, discovered a conspiracy against the life of Xerxes, and informed the queen of it, at first the only notice taken of it was, that it was recorded in the chronicles of the kingdom; but after some years he was made the first minister of the Persian kingdom, to the great advantage of his nation.
Nehemiah received during the time he was governor in Jerusalem no payment for his office. Also he daily fed at his own table one hundred and fifty guests. He relieved those who were in need, by gifts and loans, to the utmost of his ability. He did not spare himself from any labour or trouble; his own servants worked with the rest of the people in building the walls of Jerusalem. By his own example, he induced the rulers of the people and the rich men to restore the goods which they had taken in pledge from the poor who were indebted to them, and to give up the debts.
Such men were very useful to the Jewish people for their temporary restoration. But of the true Restorer it was said by the Lord, through the prophet Malachi: "Behold, I WILL SEND MY MESSENGER, AND HE SHALL PREPARE THE WAY BEFORE ME: AND THE LORD, WHOM YE SEEK, SHALL SUDDENLY COME TO HIS TEMPLE, EVEN THE MESSENGER OF THE COVENANT, WHOM YE DELIGHT IN: BEHOLD, HE SHALL COME, SAITH THE LORD of hosts.'
b Mal. iii, 1.
OLD TESTAMENT STORIES.
FOUR hundred and eighty three years, according to the prophecy of Daniel, were to pass away between the rebuilding of the temple and the coming of Christ. This period was distinguished by most remarkable changes of prosperity and adversity in the history of the Jews.
Alexander, the Grecian emperor, showed great respect for the temple and the priests of the true God, much to the surprise of his captains; and he manifested much kindness to the people. After his death, Ptolemy, one of his generals, who was king of Egypt, conquered the land of Judea, and carried away many thousand Jews as prisoners to Egypt. His son and successor showed great favour to the Jews, and had a translation of the Holy Scriptures made, at great expense, into the Greek language.
After they had been more than a hundred years under the kings of Egypt, they came under the power of Antiochus, the king of Syria. He, by means of enticements and threats, led away many thousands of the Jews to idolatry. But many preferred rather to suffer the death of martyrs, that they might obtain a resurrection to a better life.
One admirable race of heroes appeared at this time, the Maccabees. They delivered the land